Aug 18

4 Years in Korea – How Korea Has Changed 2010-2014

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but July 13th marked 4 years in Korea for us! We’re a little bit late on celebrating this, but with our Youtube milestones and summer vacation, we didn’t want to overwhelm you guys with too much of the same thing (that thing being awesomeness hehe)!
Anyway, you may be wondering, “Did you plan on staying this long in Korea?” And the answer is, yes and no! We knew we would be here for more than one year. After the first year, I got an amazing job (the same one I have now), and since then we have found no reason good enough to leave! Now that Evan also has a job he loves, I can safely say that we will be sticking around for much longer than 4 years too. ;)

I’ll save you all of the cliche “It went by so fast”, mostly because we said all that in the video. But what I didn’t say in the video is that every year in Korea has gotten better – more adventures, better Korean, better food, better teaching methods, and just all around a more richer and fulfilling life with each year that passes. We still have other passions and things we want to do and accomplish in other parts of the world, but I can very well see Korea as a home base for us in the future, no matter where life takes us.

Now to get to the interesting bits! Change happens fast in a country this size with this many people. Trends in food and fashion change seasonally, and with new fair trade agreements having been signed, we’ve witnessed an influx of western products into Korea over the past 4 years. In the video we highlight some of these things, but we already know we’ve left out a ton! If you can think of something we’ve missed please leave it in a comment below!

Western chains more widespread

Subway – I remember being excited when we lived in Seoul our first year when we saw the Subway in Itaewon, but now there are too many to count in Seoul and we even have two in Yangsan! It’s weird that there are none in Busan, but I think they will be opening soon. Yay for easy access to sandwiches!

Mexican food – It’s been getting more popular with Koreans every year we’ve been here. There have been a lot of attempts of Korean-Mexican fusion food that has recently become popular in California, but I have to say that most of those have been a fail. If it’s not a fail, it’s so inordinately expensive that it makes it taste worse than it is, if that makes sense. But if you’re desperate, you can actually find Mexican food! Definitely couldn’t in 2010.

There are so many more western chains now that we actually made a video about all the western chains we’ve noticed in Korea! You can check that out here and check the comments for all of the ones we forgot. :P

Personal Hygiene Products

TAMPONS! They have them now. In 2010 I either saw none on the shelves or 1 box(the cardboard kind) for waaaay more than I wanted to pay for them. Now there is much more of a variety and they’re not AS expensive. But pads are still preferred by Korean women so just be aware ladies!

CONDOMS! They have them now. I never saw condoms prominently displayed in convenience stores or grocery stores until this past year! Isn’t that crazy? Korea also just aired its first commercial for condoms this past year, and since then, I’ve several different brands next to every check out counter. A noticeable change for sure.

Alcohol

The bottom line is that Korean beer is not good. It’s worse than Bud Light in my opinion. But thank god the whole craft beer scene has caught on in Korea in recent years! Craftworks in Seoul has expanded but is now not the only place serving up tasty brews. We have a popular brewery in Busan called Galmegi and we just got a craft beer and pizza place in YANGSAN. We really hit the suburb city jackpot here.

As far as imported bottles go, they are much more abundant and cheaper than they were in 2010. Self-serve beer bars have been really popular the past couple years. These bars have large coolers full of imports that you just get yourself and then pay later by the bottle. They’re still more expensive than we would pay back home, but not by that much.

Fresh Produce & Cheese

Everyone complains about how expensive fresh produce is in Korea. I always think the complaints are hyperbolic, but expats were right about the price of some fruit in 2010. Our first year a watermelon would easily cost you 20 bucks, and blueberries were incomprehensibly expensive! These days a watermelon will cost you 5-10 dollars, which is pretty much the same that I paid in the US.
Blueberries are also much more reasonably priced, although I haven’t splurged and bought them yet. I’d say they’re still about double the price than they are back home.
Avocados and limes are something that I see now in stores that I would have fainted at the sight of in 2010. Avocados will run you about 3 bucks a pop, but for some avocado lovers that’s well worth it!
Cheese, cheese, cheese. Good cheese is now available in stores, but it’s still too expensive for me to buy on a regular basis. I would still suggest buying a block of cheese at Costco for 20 bucks, than 5 slices for 5 bucks. Still though, for cheese emergencies, it’s there for you.

Organized Tours for Foreigners

This is something I’ve noticed just in the last year. It seems like there are countless organized trips for foreigners run by English speaking Koreans usually. (Gyopos or otherwise) I may just have not noticed them in previous years, but I only remember Adventure Korea being the main company that ran organized tours around the country. If you’re planning on coming to Korea in the future, you won’t have any trouble finding weekend trips already organized for you! The only one I’ve had experience with that I can recommend to you is Adventure Korea linked above and WINK-When in Korea.

Teaching Jobs

The ESL market is always changing in Korea, and expats have a wide range of opinions on the matter. In my opinion, not much has changed except for the major cuts made to middle and high school teaching jobs in Seoul and Busan. Being an elementary teacher, this hasn’t effected me, but I know many that have to make the switch from middle or high school to elementary in the past year or two.

As for our public school contracts, they recently capped the pay at 2.7 million won(previously you could make more than that), and they took away 1 week of vacation from our re-signing bonus. So now, instead of 2 extra weeks of vacation, we only have one. But considering it’s amazing we get ANY extra vacation just for staying with the same school, I didn’t think that was a big deal.

Clothes

Myeongdong is the famous shopping district in Seoul, and in 2010 it was the only place you could find Western clothing chain stores like H&M. This has changed a lot since then, with there being multiple H&M’s just in Myeongdong alone, as well as other neighborhoods and in Busan. You can also find Forever 21 and Uniqlo, a Japanese chain that I like to call the Asian Gap.
Also, as obesity is becoming more of a problem in Korea, I have noticed bigger sizes (that fit me) in Korean clothing sections in stores like Emart. Score!

Again let us know if you’ve noticed other changes, or if you have any questions!
It’s been an incredible four years, here’s to four more?!?!

Aug 16

You Are Here Cafe: Opening Day!

We went to Seoul last weekend for a very special occasion! Our friends at Talk to me in Korean along with Eat your Kimchi of Youtube fame have officially opened up a cafe together! It’s called You Are Here Cafe, and I think it will be an additional “must-see” to so many visiting Seoul for the first time. We first heard about the cafe this past winter from Hyunwoo (of TTMIK) during the beginning stages of planning, and we’re so excited that the opening day has finally come and gone so successfully.


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We are there..You Are Here! .. wait, what?
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The You Are Here Cafe, street view, opening day!

We left Yangsan for Seoul very early in the morning on Saturday to try to make it to the opening at 10AM. At around 9:30 we got a message from Hyunwoo on Kakao Talk with a picture of a line outside of the door of the cafe! Awesome, but not too surprising. By the time we arrived at around 10:30, the line was so long that you could walk down the road for 2 minutes next to the line, backed all the way up to a local GS25. Once we said our initial hellos, we helped them serve water to people waiting in line. Everyone seemed so busy because while they were managing the crowd and making sure the opening was going smoothly, they were also being stopped every two seconds by people for selfies! Props to them for holding themselves together in the cafe for more than 12 hours, whew.

We came and went all day and night, only leaving to eat lunch. When we came back to the cafe hours later, some of the same people were STILL in line. We heard that people waited in line around 3 hours to get into the cafe. Talk about dedicated fans and supporters!

We got a quick tour of the cafe from Hyunwoo, and I have to say, it’s a fantastic space. It’s not in the super busy part of Hongdae so it’s quiet, but I suspect this area will become more popular with the addition of the You Are Here Cafe. It’s 2 stories and has a patio and nice yard out front. Menu items were hand picked by the TTMIK and EYK team, and the food items are based off of Martina’s personal recipes! We tried the carrot cake and a powerball, both really delicious! (Unfortunately no picture, too hungry >.<)

The highlight of the day for me was hanging out with my fellow k-vloggers, because it's always so much fun when we all get together. Abi from Smiling Seoul has left Korea so it was the last time we could hang out with her. But we also got to meet Simon and Martina for the first time as well as Nic and Hugh from My Korean Husband! We’ve talked on social media a bit but it was really great to meet both couples and chat for a bit about youtube (as we do).


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Girls of Youtube Korea! Charly, Megan, me, Abi

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Us with Stephen and Simon and Martina!

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With Nic and Hugh from My Korean Husband!


Both TTMIK and EYK will be selling their merch in the cafe, and while we were there I picked up a “한국어 공부중” tote bag. They will also be using the cafe to host Languagecast every Monday, a language exchange meetup that they have been running for about 6 years now. Having their own space to host Languagecast as well as have and teach language classes has been a dream for them for years, and it’s so cool being there to see it become a reality! Congrats again to you guys!

And thanks everyone who recognized us and said hey! It was great to meet you guys and hear some of your stories. You guys made our day. :)

To see more photos from the day check out our Flickr page!
If you want to go to the cafe, there are video directions and a map here.

Jul 31

FLASK Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream in Busan

What is it?

South Korea is a country where you can very easily notice and identify trends–trends in fashion, hairstyles, and yes, FOOD! Every summer there seems to be a new ice cream trend. This year, one of those trends is liquid nitrogen ice cream! Different chains with the same concept are opening up all over Seoul and Busan, and we finally made our way to Nampo-dong in Busan to check out Flask. It looks like a laboratory and the “scientists” even wear white lab coats while they make your ice cream! While ice cream made by liquid nitrogen does not taste any different than ice cream made a more traditional way, the concept really comes together with the atmosphere of the shop, the “scientists” and the ice cream itself. Everyone loves getting ice cream, but this concept makes it into a show, and it’s a ton of fun. :)

How do I get there?

When we went there weren’t any clear directions to the shop, so we will try to make it easier for you with this map.
The easiest way is to go out exit 1 or 3 of Nampo Station on Line 1. Go to the nearest alley that leads to the big main shopping street of Nampo, called Gwangbok-ro. Take a left. Keep walking until you get to a kind of intersection where the road splits, and stay left. If you know where the KFC is, walk towards that. Keep walking until you see the KB bank and Prospecs(an athletic store). Take a right into the alley between the KB and Prospecs and Flask will be on your right! It’s not that hard to find at all, really. Hope the map helps! :)

flaskmap

If you know of any other locations for liquid nitrogen ice cream, please let us know! Have you tried it yet, or had anything like this in your home country? We’d love to hear about it!
Try to stay cool and enjoy your summer!

Jul 30

Obong English Festival 2014

One of the events I dread the most at my public school is the English speech competition. Kids reading memorized speeches most of them didn’t even write, about boring topics, with robotic hand gestures? No thank you. I’ve always hated judging those, because it just feels so disingenuous and unproductive. But this year, the administration at my school had the good sense to change things up! Instead of an English speech competition, they decided to host an English Festival! Sounds fun, right?

Song Performances

Students in the 3rd and 4th grade learned short, easy English songs and practiced them throughout the semester. Eventually their homeroom teachers choreographed the songs, and some classes made props or costumes for their performances. Instead of it being a competition (which there are too much of anyway), all classes got an award. We had an award for Best Overall Performance, Most Spirited, Best Choreography, Best English, and Best Singing. This really encouraged the kids, took the pressure off of them that usually comes with competition, and allowed them to have a lot more fun.

Golden Bell Competition

The 5th and 6th grade students participated in a Golden Bell competition. Golden Bell is a popular quiz show in Korea, where students write the answers to various questions on whiteboards until there is one student remaining. If the student can answer the final golden bell question, he or she wins the competition and receives a scholarship for University! Here is five minutes of an episode of Golden Bell just to give you more of an idea of what it’s like. Since the show premiered on TV, many teachers have adapted the game to use in classrooms and for camps around the country. Everyone knows the TV show so it excites them to be a part of the competition in their school.

At some point in the competition, when many of the students had been eliminated, we had a “Second Chance” challenge. Each teacher in the grade did the Korean traditional “Rock, Scissors, Paper”, and the students of the winning teacher got to re-enter the competition. This was everyone’s favorite part of the Golden Bell for sure, and one of the students who got a second chance ended up winning the competition!

I had lots of fun this year at our English Festival and I thought it was a great alternative to the usual English competitions I had been a part of in the past. Have you done something like this at your school? Every school is different, so I’d love to hear what kind of festivals and competitions you have at your school in Korea or elsewhere!

Jul 24

How to prepare for English Camp

You’re Busy

There are a lot of things to be overwhelmed about in your first year of teaching in Korea, from co-teacher relationships, to asserting your authority, to contract disputes. While our work load is usually pretty light, there are a few times a year when being the only foreigner in your school means you are in charge of one too many things. One of those times comes around at the end of each semester, when preparing for the Summer or Winter English Camp. With Summer Camp just around the corner, and with about 8 camps under my belt, I thought I would share some tips and advice with you that will hopefully ease some of the stress you may have about doing your first camp!

You’re Nervous

I remember how nervous I was doing my first camp at a public school, especially when only one student showed up and I had to scrap my whole plan on the first day. Eventually more students came, but since it was my first year at a public school, I wasn’t used to the whole last-minute, casual, nothing-is-as-serious-as-they-make-it-sound feel that I’m so accustomed to now. And it’s true, you have to be really flexible in this job — never be too invested or attached to any plan that you’ve made. Go with the flow and have fun with it!

You have a Deadline

So if you have a deadline for your camp plan and materials and you feel overwhelmed and you’re not sure where to start, I hope this is helpful for you. I would have loved to see this when I planned my first camp! If you want to see my camp book, watch the video! And if you have any camp horror stories or success stories I’d love to hear them! If you’ve taught before, what was your first camp like? Leave a comment!

Here are some Tips!

Here’s a quick summary of my process in preparing for English camp.

  • Pick a fun theme! In the past I’ve done Dr. Seuss, Olympics (during the Olympics), and Superheroes.
  • Make a broad outline – No details, just activities and big picture ideas.
  • Make a materials list – You’ll probably need to turn in the outline and materials list to your co-teacher by a certain date, so check with him/her on this if you haven’t heard.
  • Focus on your strengths – If you are great at making worksheets, by all means go to town and start making your book! If you’re great at making powerpoints or games, do that. Either way, focus on that and supplement the other elements of your camp with the plethora of materials online.
  • Use the materials available to you – I usually use waygook.org, Pinterest for free printables, and education.com to source worksheets for my camp book.
  • Have FUN! Don’t be afraid to do things that just sound fun to you! Want to play outdoor games with water balloons and water guns for your summer camp? Do it! Want to teach them a fun dance like the Cha Cha Slide? Do it! Want to tye-dye shirts to wear on the last day of camp? Awesome! Be creative. If you’re having fun, they will too.

When you’ve finished your camp, come back and let us know how it went! Did you have fun? Did the students enjoy it?

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